Soul Matters – March 2015

As a young girl I loved the Little House book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which chronicled her life growing up in the 1860s. I read the books many times and when the television series came out, I was glued to it. I recently got to revisit those halcyon days on the prairie with my daughter, now eight. We read the first book aloud together and watched some of the episodes online.

It’s an interesting experience to return to something you knew so well as a child and see it through adult eyes. I found myself admiring the Ingalls (Those people knew things! They could make soap and gut a bear and build a house!) and also feeling an internal emptiness for the collective wisdom and skills and values we have lost. Life was a lot more soulful then.

It strikes me that the western, pioneer values portrayed in Little House align in many ways with Taoist philosophy, of which I am a big fan. The word Tao translates to “The Way” or “Nature.” Taoists look to Nature as a guide to life, believing that all things are imbued with the same energy and conform to similar patterns. I think the Ingalls were closet Taoists.

The lessons I learned from Little House, the ones I felt so wistful about, are still alive and well in many spiritual practices, if not thriving in our American culture. As Matthew McConaughey says in his now legendary Lincoln commercial, “Sometimes you have to go back to go forward.” Yes indeed.

Here are some of the lessons I culled from life on the prairie:

  1. There is no great loss without some small gain. This is not Pollyanna-ism, it’s just a fact. This is about embracing natural law and seeing things in a balanced perspective. It’s also about focusing on the lesson and the possibility. Nothing is purely black or purely white.
  2. Be indebted to no one. Pa was big on this one, and he was a wise man. Being in debt is ubiquitous; it is also a state of imbalance. Debt creates anxiety and stress. It is living beyond one’s means, which is living a lie. To be free of debt is to maintain integrity. It helps us to be real and true and balanced people.
  3. Share. Sharing is an act of love, kindness, compassion, empathy and generosity. This is true whether we are sharing our feelings, our possessions, or our time. Sharing connects us to others and to our souls, as we simultaneously reach in and out.
  4. A simple life is a good life. It is a true challenge to live simply in this day and age. We live in a world of distraction and delusion. It bears repeating that money does not make us happy, nor does busyness make us important. Simplicity is a virtue because it keeps our center where it belongs: in our hearts.
  5. Be self-sufficient, but remember that we all need and depend on one another. It’s important to be able to take care of yourself, to develop a connection to your own strength and wisdom. It’s also important to know when to ask for help and to receive it freely and with gratitude.
  6. Be willing to start over. The Ingalls family started over again and again as they moved west, and it was challenging. Life is a constant cycle of birth, death and re-birth, of letting go. Resisting this cycle only causes suffering. And while letting go is difficult, new beginnings are full of energy and possibility.

KATE INGRAM, M.A., is a therapist, soul coach, and award winning author of Washing the Bones: A Memoir. To schedule a free initial consultation, comment on something you’ve read or to find out more, please go to